Many of you found out last night or this morning that the torch has been passed from Frank McCourt to the Magic Johnson fronted group. The Dodger ownership is in new hands. The best hands. Magical hands.
Many are focusing on the price paid for the franchise. Some are focusing on the fact Frank McCourt is still hanging around. Some are focusing on the fact Magic is simply a front man and not the main money man. Some are rubbing their hands in glee as they anticipate being in the bidding for every great player who becomes available.
All I know is that out of the blue the news hit me last night and turned me back into a giddy 20 year old. Many of you simply know Magic as the ball-headed, fairly overweight icon whose parents or uncles talk too much about. Yet at one time this new owner was everything to everybody.
I'd like to describe the joy he put into the hearts of sports fans in1979, starting with his NCAA run, and culminating a mere 14 months later with a Laker World Championship. For this fan it was literally the greatest 14 months of his lifetime.
It all started with Magic leading his Michigan State team to the NCAA title, the 19 year old phenom with the electric smile. You could root for Larry Bird's underdog Indiana State team, but you had to be a heartless soul not to appreciate the skills and joy Magic brought to the tournament. Nothing like it has ever been seen again.
Somehow the Lakers had manipulated themselves into the first pick of the draft. You expected Magic to get picked but somehow folk started whispering that Sidney Moncrief would be the smarter pick. Magic didn't have a shot, was the main focus, he wasn't fast enough, he was too tall to run the point in the NBA. The naysayers were everywhere. It was not until the draft started and Magic was chosen with those famous words
With the number one pick in the NBA 1979 draft, the Los Angeles Lakers selects Earvin "Magic" Johnson from Michigan State, 6'8", 200 pounds.
that I let out a sigh of relief.
Pre-season finally rolled into a season for the ages. In the first game, Kareem made a sky hook that I thought was from 30 feet to win the game at the buzzer against the San Diego Clippers. The shot was incredible, but what followed was even more so. Magic bear hugged Kareem and would not let go. Based on how Kareem acted it might have been the first time he was ever hugged. His eyes bugged out with disbelief that the kid was getting this excited about one game. It is a memory that will never leave me.
Yet it is how the season ended that defined Magic more than anything else. The Lakers were ahead of the 76ers three games to two, but Kareem was hurt and would not play again. I drove for a living back then and I spent the whole day listening to sports talk about how Magic was going to play center. I was literally pissing my pants in anticipation of this game. So many times anticipated sports moments do not live up to the billings. Oh, but this one did, in every possible way. Magic did jump center, he did everything. He was a 20 year old dominating a game against a team of legendary performers. He scored 42 points, made all 14 free throws. Magic had plenty of help that game but it all started and ended with him.
He was Magical.
It is unbelievable to me that the one sports figure who gave me more joy than everyone else combined is now the front man for my favorite sports franchise.
Don't pinch me, I don't want to wake up from this dream.